Molas Pass Colorado
Travel Guides and Tips from Nerds on the Road

Christmas in Durango Colorado via Northern Arizona

For Christmas, Ross finally had some consecutive days off aside from our occasional 3 day weekend, so we decided to get out of town and spend our holiday somewhere snow filled and awesome. We had been missing Colorado and never spent much time in the Southern part of the state. We wanted to see more of what we missed last year, so we chose Durango. Durango is one of the larger towns in the area and close enough to the famous ski resort town Telluride where we might get a chance to ski.

Northern Arizona:

The morning before we left, I went on a nice, brisk, hour long walk in a snow storm – a last attempt to kick my 2 month long cold (yes,  my logic sounds backwards but it did work!). While I was gone Ross found a room at the Mariott Home Suites after we had both spend the previous afternoon calling just about every place in town, looking for a place that accepted cats (being constantly rejected). We left mid afternoon after a frantic packing festival (as is our way), Christmas Eve.

The storm I had walked in was still over the entire region all the way to Colorado but weather has never stopped us before. We drove through a thick whiteout in Flagstaff before reaching the 89 through the Navajo Nation. We could see the ominous black clouds looming to the west of us, seemingly stuck in the Grand Canyon as we drove through the barren Northern Arizona desert.

My favorite part of the first half of the drive was a light powdering of snow surrounding yellow grassy fields. The light blue sky to the east contrasting them as blue is meant to contrast yellow. Occasionally we would drive past some cows but overall the region was without houses or businesses for a long way, leaving perfect, untainted horizons and untouched nature.

Yellow and Blue With Cows

The farther north we got, there seemed to be less snow for a while, and then the mars like terrain of the upper corner of the state became dominant.
Tower of a rock, Northern ArizonaTruck on Mars

By evening in Colorado, the weather had caught up with us and we were driving blind for a while, just keeping an eye on the lights in front of us and happy for our studded tires.

Storm on the way to colorado
Storm on the way to colorado


When we arrived at the hotel it was past 10, but not quite Christmas. The room was awesome: a full kitchen, living room, separate bedroom and a divided bathroom and “powder room”(?). The kitchen was especially great because we always prefer cooking for ourselves on vacations rather than sitting around waiting for some terrible pizza to show up when we don’t feel like eating out after a day of hiking (or whatever we do).  We unloaded our things, set everything up, including our Christmas tree, and by the time we were sitting down to rest it was midnight – AKA time for PRESENTS!

Of course we immediately opened them all immediately (it’s amazing we waited as long as we did).

Blood Bath Set Ross got me an awesome bathroom set for my zombie/horror obsession, a shower curtain with bloody hands streaking down, a hand towel with bloody hand prints and splatter, and a bag of blood ( full of cherry body wash). It was disturbingly appropriate and amusing, the best kinds of presents.

I got Ross a Brave New World sweatshirt, some Star Trek socks, Google TV (for us both) and I donated $60 for a bear ball to the Free the Bears Fund.

The other thing Ross got me was so new, it wasn’t in stores yet and wouldn’t be delivered until the 2nd of January, but he didn’t make me wait to find out what it was – an awesome Windows 8 Lenovo ThinkPad 2 tablet. Between my work, social network habits and lack of a kindle, I have wanted something larger than my phone for quite a while, and Ross always know what to get me without fail (I’m terrible at choosing gifts and easy to shop for).

loaf-of-breadRoss’s mom got us a bread maker (another reason we wanted a kitchen), which fit perfectly on the counter of the hotel room. We started a loaf of plain white bread with garlic in it (we brought everything we would need, knowing what it was but waiting for Christmas nonetheless), watched a movie, snacked on our cupcakes and Christmas cake that we made and brought, and slept great with Susa at our feet.

Hotel and my cupcake

The next day, Christmas, was great. Everywhere was abandoned or closed, except for Starbucks and one Himalayan restaurant, so the streets were almost entirely empty. I half expected a parade or some event but no, nothing and no one aside from the gaggle of people in Starbucks and a few people at the restaurant.

Ahhh, A beautiful, empty world.

Dead in Downtown Durango - Christmas
Dead in Downtown Durango – Christmas

Dead in Downtown Durango - Christmas

Best Christmas Movie. Ever.


After I got something hot at Starbucks, we walked down the empty street and looked at the old buildings. It was freezing out and we needed to eat something, so we stopped at the Himalayan restaurant, Himalayan Kitchen. They had an awesome buffet with tons of vegan options like battered veggies, curry, samosas and several side dishes and deserts, all great. We were so hungry after the day of driving to town and eating mostly snacks that night, that we just kind of helped ourselves to the buffet before a waiter could come by. When the waiter eventually came by I ordered a chai that I never got, but wasn’t surprised really, I think he felt a little left out of the process.

Molas Pass & Silverton

After lunch we went for a drive north over a couple passes on a road that would lead to Silvertown. The second pass, Molas Pass, was amazing, and amazingly cold; at least 20 degrees colder than Durango. We were horribly under-dressed for some reason. We tried to stand outside for a while and take in the view but it didn’t last long. There were kids sledding bundled up like marshmallows and people with their dogs walking around like the weather was pleasant – our summer and time in Arizona must have ruined our acclimation since last year in Breckenridge, or maybe it was the late December 12k feet element of the situation that was the problem.

Molas Pass Colorado

On the way to Silvertown we came across this crazy, random, hot springs caught our eye. The sign said “Pinkerton Hot Springs”  and  mentioned a religious sect that used the host springs for medicinal reasons for a time, drinking it, bathing in it, until the hot springs became too small or the “resort” ran out of money and customers.

Hot Springs Durango

Silvertown was a tiny little mining town more empty than Durango could ever dream of being, with only about 3 streets total and not a single thing open (aside from a gas station before town). It had a really cute little downtown strip with lots of old, nicely painted buildings and antique shops. I would have liked to spend more time there if there was anything to do at the time but, as it was, we barely felt like getting out of the car in the below 20 degrees, extra biting weather.



homemade-pizzaAfter our drive, we went “home” to the hotel and made pizza.

We had a few more days in town to find things to do so we spend most of our days doing what we usually do on days off, traveling.

We looked at the map and chose different places to drive within 80 miles. In northern New Mexico we decided on Navajo Lake, a giant reservoir filled with house boats and planted fish. We showed up at the marina just as a bunch of farm fish were being released  into the lake. It was a massacre to say the least as it only took a few minutes for about 100 sea gulls to show up from out of nowhere and try to eat whatever of the baby fish they could. Seems like a pretty inefficient way to release fish but they should know, right?

lake navaho

It was too morbid (and too far) for a good photo but imagine a truck backed into a lake with a tank on the back, dumping water filled with fish you can’t see from afar into the lake, when one of the parks people stumbles in the icy water past his knees, surrounded by ravenous birds, cold, wet, and not yet done. A sight indeed (crappy drawing done on my new Thinkpad!).

Navajo Lake House Boats

House Boats!

Navajo Lake Marina Molas Pass, Durango

Another day we went to Telluride just to see what it was like and how it compared to Breckenridge. When we finally found a place to park, as Telluride was completely swamped with people on vacation, we got some lunch and Ross used what time he had left to hit the slopes before it got dark. My ankle still isn’t doing so great so I opted not to risk further injury on a new slope. I walked around taking photos but was eventually forced to find a cafe after being too cold hold my camera anymore.

Ye Old Miner’s Cabin in downtown Telluride:

Telluride Cabin

Mountain downtown:


Overall, Telluride was how I imagine Aspen, and if Aspen is worse, then I will never go there. There was rich women in fur coats everywhere, overpriced everything, rude store keepers and we didn’t find one trace of down-to-earth people until we settled on a local eatery after being told by a Thai restaurant that we would have to wait 4 HOURS for a seat !

The local’s place was Baked in Telluride, a general sort of dive/sports place with greasy food (and veggie burgers), but normal, local people who were willing to eat it, and that was a relief to find. Telluride is certainly no Breckenridge!

On another one of our days in Durango, we did a snowmobile tour, something for another blog really because it was that great – but here is a slice until I finish that blog.

Ice Pirates Snowmobile Tours, Silverton

We had an awesome time, and a long drive home with a very angry kitty (she got over the fun of the vacation after a couple days). Arizona is great but we missed Colorado and a real winter! We expected a lot more snow in Flagstaff but sadly the whole region has been suffering a shortage this year. Before our time in Arizona is over though, we hope to go skiing at Arizona Snowbowl at least once!

Check out some more pics, some repeats of what’s above:


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